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Felon: Poems

4.44  ·  Rating details ·  45 ratings  ·  9 reviews
Felon tells the story of the effects of incarceration in fierce, dazzling poems—canvassing a wide range of emotions and experiences through homelessness, underemployment, love, drug abuse, domestic violence, fatherhood, and grace—and, in doing so, creates a travelogue for an imagined life. Reginald Dwayne Betts confronts the funk of postincarceration existence and examines pris ...more
Hardcover, 96 pages
Published October 15th 2019 by W. W. Norton Company
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Oct 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Outstanding poems about incarceration and how a man can still feel like he is in a cage as he walks free. The range here is impressive. There is a real honesty here of a man who is looking into himself without blinking. At times, it is uncomfortable, but in a good way. The redacted poems about bail injustice are particularly powerful but really, the collection as individual poems and as a whole, is incredibly moving, nuanced, and compelling.
Craig Werner
This will almost certainly be my choice for best poetry volume for 2019. Betts has written powerfully of his experience in and after prison--he wound up incarcerated as a result of a dumb youthful mistake that probably wouldn't have landed an affluent and/or white kid in jail. After his release, he pursued a law degree and has now established himself as both a writer and a lawyer.

Which, as Felon makes crystal clear, doesn't mean his life is anything resembling easy. The shadows of hi
Oct 19, 2019 rated it liked it
These poems are raw and best appreciated listening to the audiobook which is read by the author.
Nov 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A confession begins when I walked Black out of that parking lot.
A confession began when I, without combing my hair, dressed
For a day that would find me walking out of that parking lot.
Ace Boggess
Oct 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This collection is as close to perfect as any on this subject that I can imagine. The themes are personal to me. The writing is beautiful and disturbing. Many of the poems take on subjects (namely prison and life after prison) that I've been trying to write about for years, but they do it so much better. Some of these are poems I wish I had written.

Throughout the book, both the language and insight shared are moving, like in this opening of the poem "Confession":

"If I tol
Oct 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book should be required reading for us all. I started the book and had to stop reflect. I wanted to savory every word of the book, and now that I have finished a part of me is looking forward to engaging it again. There is a heaviness to the book and makes reading it require that the reader bring something to the reading. The words and images linger in a way that makes one wonder what kind of country are we living in. Thank you, Mr. Betts, for your thoughtfulness, willingness to be vulnerab ...more
Jack Jones  Literary Arts
Aug 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Emily Polson
Deeply moving collection of poetry on incarceration and its aftermath. I listened to the audio (read by the author) while following along on the page, which was a great reading experience.

Favorites include:
-When I Think of Tamir Rice While Driving
-On Voting for Barack Obama in a Nat Turner T-Shirt
-Essay on Reentry: for Fats, Juvie & Star
-and all four Redaction Poems
Oct 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
Some poems exalt the everyday and make you see its beauty, others open up the imagination and then there are those that serve as the shortest, sharpest way to deliver hard truths. This collection is the latter, a collection of poems about being in the wrong place at the wrong time; about injustice and the USA’s carceral system and growing up in and around it’s almost inescapable reach in black communities.
Heartbreaking and discomfiting.
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Reginald Dwayne Betts (born February 1, 1980) is an American poet, memoirist, and teacher. He is author of A Question of Freedom: A Memoir of Learning, Survival, and Coming of Age in Prison (Penguin/Avery, 2009), Shahid Reads His Own Palm (Alice James Books, 2010), winner of the 2010 Beatrice Hawley Award, and Bastards of the Reagan Era (Stahlecker Selections, 2015). He was a 2010 Soros Justice Fe ...more
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